Mom's nutrition during pregnancy related to child's behavior at age three

Children born to teenage mothers who were iron deficient early in their pregnancies were less active at age 3 than the children of iron sufficient moms, a Penn State study has shown.

Dr. Laura Murray-Kolb, National Institutes of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow in psychology and human development and family studies at Penn State who led the study, says, "By being less active, the children may be missing out on exploring their environment and, consequently, missing out on opportunities for positive development.

"While many previous studies have shown that maternal nutrition affects the physical health and development of the child, this study adds to the growing evidence that a mother's nutritional status in pregnancy also affects the behavior and personality of the child as well," she adds.

The study was detailed in a poster presented Sunday, April 2, 2006, at the Experimental Biology conference in San Francisco, Calif. The study authors are Murray-Kolb, Dr. John L. Beard, professor of nutritional sciences, and Dr. Elizabeth Susman, Jean Phillips Shibley professor of biobehavioral health.

Sixty teenage mothers, ages 14 through 19, from a mid-size town in Pennsylvania completed the study. Blood samples collected from the mothers at 16 weeks into their pregnancy showed that the majority, 58 percent, was iron deficient, including 10 percent who were actually anemic.

The mothers came from low to mid-level socio-economic backgrounds and had sought prenatal care. They had all been given iron-containing vitamin supplements by their health care providers.

Murray-Kolb notes that the high rate of iron deficiency is fairly typical of adolescent women who often experiment with a variety of diets. She notes that the rate of iron deficiency among the women observed early on in pregnancy likely reflects their pre-pregnant iron status.

At the end of their pregnancies, only 7 percent of the study participants were iron suf

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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